‘American in Paris’ Makes City of Lights a Broadway Tryout Town

For an increasingly global theater industry, all the world's a stage for New York-bound musicals

Chicago, Seattle, L.A., San Francisco: They’re all on the list of go-to towns for pre-Broadway tryouts of new musicals. Now? Add Paris and Hamburg.

The brewing musical version of “An American in Paris” — produced by the international coalition of Pittsburgh CLO (Van Kaplan) and Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet (Jean-Luc Choplin), by special arrangement with Elephant Eye Theatrical (Stuart Oken, Michael Leavitt and Five Cent Prods.) — will have its world premiere at Theatre du Chatelet, with the Gershwin property brought to the stage by a team of Rialto vets that includes book writer Craig Lucas, creative consultant Bartlett Sher and designers Bob Crowley and Natasha Katz. Christopher Wheeldon, the ballet dancer and choreographer, will direct and choreograph.

For an industry that’s more used to the next Broadway musical coming from Chicago or Seattle, “American in Paris” seems an unusually global affair. But it probably won’t be unusual for long: This spring’s incoming tuner “Rocky,” also backed by a transatlantic team of producers, had its bow earlier this year in Hamburg. (The same city’s on the list of potential homes for a future incarnation of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”)

New York theater, of course, has long had strong import-export ties with London. But these days it’s impossible for producers not to look past the Broadway-West End highway to the continent, and beyond, as far-flung international cities including Hamburg, Vienna, Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow and even Dutch beach town Scheveningen have proven profitable destinations for Broadway-style entertainment.

The global propagation of Brit megahits like “The Phantom of the Opera” (25 years and counting on Broadway) paved the way for tuners including “The Lion King” and “Wicked” to become internationally iconic titles with productions running around the world. As producers and presenters abroad take note of those successes in their hometowns, it’s only natural for them to want to get in on the game of developing Broadway fare as well as licensing it for their stages.

Take Dusseldorf-based legit production company Mehr! Entertainment, topped by Maik Klokow. The company, with German productions of musicals including “Starlight Express” and “Dirty Dancing” under its belt, has skedded an industry-only developmental reading of brewing musical “The Blue Angel” in Gotham Oct. 18 to drum up transatlantic interest in the project. Director BT McNicholl pens the book with Jeffrey Sweet, while “Smash” alum Joshua Bergasse is on board to choreograph.

Based on the 1951 Vincent Minnelli pic that starred Gene Kelly (which was itself based on a 1928 orchestral piece by George Gershwin), “An American in Paris” follows a U.S. veteran, fresh out of WWII, who moves to Paris and finds himself vying with two other men for the affections of a local shop girl. Stage version will incorporate familiar songs by George and Ira Gershwin including “S’Wonderful,” “I Got Rhythm” and “They Can’t Take That Away.”

“American in Paris” will bow at Theatre du Chatelet in December 2014, with producers aiming to get the tuner onto Broadway in spring 2015.

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